Film Micrœview #196: Nazarin (1959)

05.03.2015 § Leave a comment

Rating: Good.

Tarkovsky lists Nazarin as one of his top ten favorite films. It is my intention to see all of Buñuel’s work eventually, so this just bumped it up in the queue.

This is by far the least surreal Buñuel film I have seen. I understand that his Mexican period was characterized by more straightforward storytelling. As borderline neo-realist as this film gets, it nonetheless approaches an absurdity in its openness to interpretation. Nazario, the priest and protagonist, can be seen as anything from a noble modern Jesus figure, to a representation of institutionalized religious societal damage, to a manifestation of faith as completely useless. Buñuel may be deeply moved, scathingly critical, or completely detached. Is the fruit at the end the priest finally accepts charity, a burden, or ridiculous – which lesson has he learned? All perspectives are possible.

This is not a beautiful film, nor is it sad, smart, or funny. And yet, for all it bewilders, thought runs wild, and conversation takes root. I wish I could ask Tarkovsky how he read it – certainly there are many shades of Christianity, and certainly Tarkovsky’s faith was more complex than many’s.

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